Richie McCaw says that their inability to alter their game plan after the Bulls denied them in the wide channels contributed significantly to their defeat.
The Crusaders simply couldn’t breach the Bulls with the consistency they had done at Loftus two weeks ago, and subsequently never placed the Bulls under the same pressure they had in that match.
Their expansive forays grew progressively more frantic as the match progressed, while the Bulls became more and more assured in defence. The defending champions cut down their opponents’ space through an expertly executed up-and-in defensive strategy and their accuracy and physicality at the tackle point denied the Crusaders any momentum.
‘We weren’t allowed any space out wide and we didn’t adapt,’ McCaw told keo.co.za. ‘When we did find some space we didn’t capitalise on our opportunities.’
McCaw continued by pointing to an infuriating trend that crippled their cause. ‘It’s been symptomatic of our season, we just make too many errors, and against a side as good as the Bulls you can’t get away with that.
Head coach Todd Blackadder echoed his captain’s thoughts. ‘Basic mistakes are the reason we finished fourth on the table. I was pleased with our performance in the last two weeks but tonight we just made too many mistakes.’
McCaw refused to blame travel fatigue on their indifferent display. ‘I’m not going to use that as an excuse. This is a really good Bulls side that deserved their victory,’ he said. ‘We were ready to go but we came up short and that’s entirely our fault. You can’t play catch-up against the Bulls.’
It was the third time in four seasons that the Crusaders have succumbed to the Bulls at the semi-final stage of the tournament, making them well placed to comment on just how hard it is to halt the blue juggernaught. Asked if the Bulls can be stopped, McCaw said: ‘I think they can but it will take a massive performance from their opponents.’
By Ryan Vrede, at Orlando Stadium